mothergoosescore-182x300 How Ravel Orchestrated:
Mother Goose Suite

By Peter Lawrence Alexander
224 pps., Ill, $39.95 – Book Only
ISBN-13: 978-0939067121

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How Ravel Orchestrated: Mother Goose Suite began life as a piano suite for the two children of one of French composer Maurice Ravel’s friends. To create the Mother Goose Suite, Ravel went to the original short stories. Two of the story names we recognize from their Disney adaptations, like Beauty and The Beast, and Sleeping Beauty. But when you read the originals, you’re shocked to see how different, and in some cases for society today, how violent the stories are. Even so, from these stories, which film/TV and other dramatic composers can look at as a type of script, comes all sorts of situations to be described musically. A partial list includes scoring such moods as stateliness, unsureness, animal effects without synthesizers, romantic anxiety, joy, emotional rising without the basses, happily ever after, the sound of the Orient, and much more. (All of these are discussed in the book!)

Once published, it was widely received and so began the requests for Ravel to orchestrate it. Which he did. And later expanded it for a ballet.And by reading the stories, you get an amazing set of devices you can apply and use today. And with the color-coded bonus score you can readily see how Ravel went from piano to orchestra.

But the suites are our concern, because from them, we not only see how Ravel orchestrated from piano to orchestra, but where within his own composition he changed things! At first blush, this may not seem like a big deal until you realize that there are two approaches for transcribing a score from piano to orchestra (or other ensemble). One approach is to score as close to the piano part as possible to preserve the composer’s intent. The other, is to change as you go. Ravel did both. In his own compositions, he changed them to better the music to the medium of the larger ensemble. But when it came to another composer’s work, like Pictures At an Exhibition by Moussorgsky, Ravel altered voicings and fillers, but didn’t rewrite the work.

About How Ravel Orchestrated: Mother Goose Suite
Alexander Publishing’s How Ravel Orchestrated: Mother Goose Suite is a breakthrough in orchestration instruction. For the first time ever, an American publishing company has completely re-engraved the classic work with the condensed piano part at page bottom in an oversized A4 format.

For fast referencing, each bar is numbered at the bottom of the page (original rehearsal marks are also included).

By including the piano part at page bottom, students of counterpoint will see specific devices that Ravel used, where, and how he orchestrated them. Jazz musicians and composers will also see how Ravel composed and orchestrated using altered DOM7 chords, mixolydian chord scales, and triads with the added 9th.

How Ravel Orchestrated: Mother Goose Suite is a good read. Preceding each movement is the complete short story that movement was based on. Now you can look at Mother Goose Suite to better understand the dramatic composition and scoring techniques that went into each work. By comparing back to the original story, you gain a better understanding of Ravel’s approach. Following each movement is a brief orchestration analysis based on the Eight Keys To Learning Professional Orchestration as taught in the Professional Orchestration Series.

How Ravel Orchestrated: Mother Goose Suite goes beyond traditional analysis by including two literary works by Poe which greatly impacted Ravel, The Poetic Principle and The Philosophy of Composition.

Also included is a brief on Ravel’s method of working which goes a long way to taking the mystery out of orchestral scoring. Two things worth noting are that Ravel

1) had a professional concert violinist mark the string bowings

2) that Ravel learned a lot about writing for the individual instruments because he was constantly asking musicians questions.

Simply put, there has never been a practical analysis like this before, written in an engaging, accessible read/apply style for the, “working composer.”

Watch Ramon Tebar Conduct